Each day of the week offers a menu aimed at a different aspect of meal planning. There's a family meal, a kids' menu aimed at younger tastes, a heat-and-eat meal that recycles leftovers, a budget meal that employs a cost-cutting strategy, a meatless or "less meat" dish for people who may not be strict vegetarians but are trying to cut down on meat, an express meal that requires little or no preparation, and an entertaining menu that's quick.
SUNDAY / Family
Impress Mother by preparing Ham and Cheese Strata for her on her day. Serve with a sliced tomato salad topped with chopped fresh basil and a light drizzle of olive oil. For dessert, try this Lemon Pie by friend Nancy Stewart of Broadway, Va., one of the best mothers (and friends) I know.
Show Mother how smart you are and prepare the Ham and Cheese Strata a day ahead.
Plan ahead: Save enough pie for Monday.
Mother's Day Ham and Cheese Strata
Makes 6 servings
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Chilling time: 3 hours to overnight
Cooking time: about 45 to 55 minutes
1 large chopped onion
18-ounce package diced ham
1 10-ounce package spinach leaves, thawed and squeezed dry
4 ounces reduced-fat shredded sharp cheddar cheese
5 slices dense white bread, stacked and halved diagonally
3 whole eggs
4 egg whites
2 1/2 cups 1 percent milk
3 / 4 teaspoon dry mustard
1 / 8 teaspoon pepper
Heat oven to 350. Coat a small nonstick skillet and a 2-quart shallow baking dish with cooking spray. Heat skillet over medium-high heat; add onion and cook 4 minutes or until golden and softened. Add ham, spinach and cheese; stir to mix well. Spread half ham mixture over bottom of baking dish. Top with bread slices overlapping, then remaining ham mixture. In a medium bowl, whisk together whole eggs, egg whites, milk, mustard and pepper until blended. Pour evenly over bread. Cover and refrigerate up to one day. Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until puffy and light brown. Adapted from Woman's Day magazine.
Per serving: 326 calories, 25 grams protein, 15 grams fat (41 percent calories from fat), 6.1 grams saturated fat, 23 grams carbohydrate, 140 milligrams cholesterol, 930 milligrams sodium, 3 grams fiber.
Nancy Stewart's Lemon Pie
Makes 8 servings
Preparation time: less than 10 minutes
Freezing time: 3 hours to overnight
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 14-ounce can fat-free sweetened condensed milk
1 12-ounce container frozen fat-free whipped topping, thawed
16-ounce reduced-fat graham cracker pie crust
In a large bowl, combine lemon juice and sweetened condensed milk. Fold in topping until thoroughly mixed. Spoon into pie crust. Freeze 3 hours to overnight. Remove from freezer 10 to 15 minutes before slicing. Garnish with lemon twists if desired.
Per serving: 245 calories, 3 grams protein, 3 grams fat (12 percent calories from fat), 1 gram saturated fat, 47 grams carbohydrate, 2 milligrams cholesterol, 146 milligrams sodium, 1 gram fiber.
MONDAY / Kids
The kids will like the crunch of Southwestern Tortilla Salad. In a large bowl, combine 1 / 4 cup reduced-fat Italian dressing, 1 / 4 cup mild salsa and 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice. Add 2 cups shredded or chopped cooked chicken, one 15-ounce can rinsed and drained black beans, one 11-ounce can Mexican corn (with peppers) and one 10-ounce package lettuce salad mixture; toss to mix. Scatter baked tortilla chips on each plate; spoon the salad over chips. Serve with fat-free sour cream and reduced-fat shredded cheddar cheese. Bring out the leftover pie for dessert.
TUESDAY / Meatless
After woefully declaring last August that my childhood favorite pimento cheese sandwich recipe had been lost forever, Baltimore Sun reader Betty Sulcer of Frederick came to my rescue with the original recipe for Pimento Cheese from Peoples' Drug Stores. Make the sandwiches on whole-wheat toast and top the filling with lettuce just like the old days. Open a can of tomato soup (made with skim milk) to accompany your sandwich and whistle all the way down memory lane with me. Spoon fresh pineapple chunks over fat-free vanilla ice cream for dessert.
Plan ahead: Save enough pimento cheese for Wednesday; save enough ice cream for Saturday.
Peoples' Drug Store Pimento Cheese
Makes about 2 cups
Preparation time: 10 minutes
8 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese (2 cups)
2 ounces cubed cream cheese
1 / 4 cup drained sweet pickle relish
1/2 2-ounce jar drained diced pimento
1 / 4 cup chopped green pepper
1/2 cup mayonnaise (the real thing)
If you have a food grinder, put the cheddar cheese, cream cheese, pickle relish, pimento and green pepper through the grinder twice to make a smooth spread. Add the mayonnaise and mix well. If you don't have a grinder, pulse all ingredients (including the mayonnaise) in a food processor until smooth.
Per tablespoon: 63 calories, 2 grams protein, 6 grams fat (82 percent calories from fat), 2.4 grams saturated fat, 1 gram carbohydrate, 12 milligrams cholesterol, 84 milligrams sodium, no fiber.
WEDNESDAY / Heat & Eat